Thank you for the commentary "Spare us the complaints about healthcare 'redistribution'". It is a refreshing departure from the usual commentary on this subject we read these days.
As I tell my students, and you observe correctly, virtually all public policy is redistributive, and not invariably from high-income to low-income families. Huge “rents,” as we economists call them, routinely flow from the tax-paying middle class to the upper end of the income distribution. The military industrial complex and the healthcare industrial complex are conduits for such rents.
It is also good that you expose so-called tax expenditures for what they are: a form of tax-financed public spending, given any existing tax system in place. When A gets a tax preference and we seek to balance the public budget, taxpayers B, C, D, etc., necessarily must pay extra taxes to make up for the revenue loss from the tax preference. It is why economists view tax preferences as just another form of public expenditure. Grover Norquist will never get it, nor anyone else who believes that eliminating tax preferences is a form of tax increase.
Uwe E. ReinhardtJames Madison professor of political economyPrinceton University